Trump exec order to hold colleges accountable for student loan debt, free speech

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday to protect free speech on college campuses and public institutions’ responsibilities regarding student loan debt.

Despite accepting "billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers," Trump said many univerisites "have become increasingly hostile to free speech."

"Taxpayer dollars should not subsidize anti-First Amendment institutions," he added. "Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech, not silence free speech."

The order seeks to ensure that public institutions comply with the First Amendment and that private schools fulfill their own stated free speech standards.

Trump suggested failure to comply could put "billions" of dollars' worth of grant money at risk. In order to receive federal dollars an institution will need to agree to follow certain conditions of receiving the money.

"If a college or university does not allow you to speak, we will not give them money. It is very simple," he said.

Agencies were also directed to gather information regarding student debt, earnings and default rates across majors from higher education institutions, as it seeks to help prospective students evaluate the quality and prospects of different programs.

Further, the White House will ask for policy recommendations as to how it can shift some of the onus of student loan risk onto public institutions.

The government is currently responsible for backing up what students cannot repay in loans – meaning the obligation ultimately falls on taxpayers. Students are required to pay back their loans regardless of the “quality” of education received, which may directly affect their ability to fulfill obligations as a borrower, according to the White House. Unfulfilled obligations carry no consequenes for colleges.

In Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget, officials outlined a proposal to require colleges that accept taxpayer funds to “have skin in the game through a loan risk-sharing program."


Earlier this week the White House proposed a cap on student loans, among other provisions, aimed at bringing down the costs of higher education – including efforts to cap a borrower’s monthly payment at 12.5 percent of discretionary income.

Outstanding student loan debt surpassed $1.5 trillion in 2018, doubling over the past decade. The average student loan borrower owes $35,000, according to the White House.